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Spanish prosecutor requests seizing passports of Catalan leaders abroad

Spain's Supreme Court to decide whether to confiscate travel documents for six pro-independence officials, including deposed president Carles Puigdemont

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20 March 2018 02:30 PM

by

ACN | Barcelona

Spain’s attorney general asked the Supreme Court judge investigating Catalan politicians for pursuing independence to seize the passports of all those seeking refuge from Spanish justice abroad, such as deposed president Carles Puigdemont.

There are currently six pro-independence leaders accused of rebellion in Belgium, Switzerland, and Scotland to avoid prosecution. As no international arrest warrant is currently in place, they are free to travel around Europe.

The Spanish foreign affairs minister Alfonso Dastis admitted on Monday that Puigdemont’s trips around Europe are creating a “certain discomfort” in the government.

Puigdemont is currently in Switzerland, where he is attending a series of debates on Catalonia’s push for independence. On Thursday, the Catalan leader will then travel to Finland, where he will meet members of the parliament and give a conference at the University of Helsinki. Other countries that pro-independence politicians have reportedly visited include Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany.

Extradition far from assured

Although the Spanish justice system initially sought the arrest of pro-independence leaders, some European countries have shown that a quick extradition would not be easy. 

Last December, the Supreme Court withdrew a European Arrest Warrant for Puigdemont and his ministers in Brussels over concerns that the Belgian judiciary might interfere with the ongoing judicial process in Spain.

After the former Catalan MP Anna Gabriel traveled to Switzerland last February, a spokesperson for the government said that the country would not grant extradition or any other kind of mutual legal assistance for political offenses. He added that "owing to media reports" Gabriel's alleged crimes "seem prima vista to be political offenses."

The Supreme Court is investigating 28 people for their role in Catalonia’s push for independence. The accused include the members of the government, who were dismissed after a declaration of independence last October.

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  • Carles Puigdemont and Anna Gabriel in Geneva, Switzerland on March 19 2018 (by Bernat Vilaró)

  • Carles Puigdemont and Anna Gabriel in Geneva, Switzerland on March 19 2018 (by Bernat Vilaró)